Iowa State seeks strong postseason run

AMES, Iowa (AP) Iowa State's lack of depth made its hopes for a regular-season Big 12 title unrealistic.

Perhaps the postseason will be kind again to the 21st-ranked Cyclones.

Iowa State (21-10, 10-8 Big 12) will begin its quest for a third straight conference tournament title Thursday against third-seeded Oklahoma (24-6, 12-6), ranked sixth nationally.

The Cyclones are the sixth seed - which could be lower than the one they'll receive for the NCAA tournament if they replicate their previous success in Kansas City.

''You can't look ahead. We're just trying to beat Oklahoma ... we're not worried about fatigue. We're not worried about minutes,'' coach Steve Prohm said. ''Hopefully we can make a great run there, and then get ready for the next run in the NCAAs.''

Iowa State's well-known depth issues were exacerbated when starter Naz Mitrou-Long chose to seek a medical redshirt in December because of hip issues. Junior Matt Thomas blossomed in Long's absence, averaging 10.6 points a game while shooting 43 percent on 3-point attempts.

But transfer Hallice Cooke couldn't adequately replace Thomas's production off the bench, which left Prohm with as few as six reliable players at times.

Cooke has recently shown flashes of the player the Cyclones thought he could be after transferring from Oregon State.

Cooke's breakout game came in a win over Kansas State on Feb. 27, when he scored 10 points in a season-high 24 minutes. Though he scored just three points in last weekend's 85-78 loss at top-ranked Kansas, the fact that Prohm has come to trust Cooke enough to play more significant minutes in the last three games is encouraging for the Cyclones.

''He's just the ultimate team guy these past few weeks,'' forward Georges Niang said. ''That's what it's all about at this point. You're going to get your opportunities. But what are you going to do with them? Hallice has relished every opportunity.''

Cooke's resurgence should also allow Prohm to feel a bit better about giving banged-up point guard Monte Morris some rest.

Prohm said Monday that Morris will sit out two days of practice after straining his right rotator cuff in Saturday's loss to the Jayhawks. It'll be the first time that Morris, who has played all but 17 minutes in Big 12 games, has rested on multiple days since June.

Morris said he will be back against the Sooners.

''My mom is going to be there. I'm going to tell her I'm at 100 percent even if I'm at 50 percent. That's just the love for this team. I'm going to lay it all on the line, hurt or not,'' Morris said.

Despite seeing Morris get hurt and Niang finish his career without a win at Allen Fieldhouse, Iowa State was encouraged by its play late in its final regular-season game. The Cyclones got a strong performance from center Jameel McKay, whose 19 points and nine rebounds suggested his struggles in Big 12 play might be behind him.

''Our guys are playing well. We're up one with three minutes to go at Kansas, where they've lost nine times in the last 13 years,'' Prohm said. ''I think we'll go into the (Big 12) tournament with a lot of confidence, and we'll go into the NCAA Tournament with a lot of confidence because we know we've got a good team. We've just got to continue to finish.''

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